3.22.2011

is it unprofessional to get personal? then, oops.


the kooky things i did to grow my business in those early years, like tabling in 95 degree heat at a JP festival 

Before deciding to launch Laughing in Traffic, I wrestled with how this brazenly personal blog would reflect on me professionally, and what it would mean for the future of my business, Cloud 9 Organize & Redesign.

My small business, especially the organizing service, is an intimate one. I spend hours at a time huddled with my clients in crowded closets and basements and bedrooms, touching very personal stuff – from toiletry drawers to cherished, not-yet-confronted belongings of deceased loved ones. Disarmed by having our heads buried in boxes and bins, my clients and I often fall into deep, meaningful conversations. Sometimes I feel like a clutter priestess; as the donation bags fill up, the client confessions pour out. In the four plus years of helping people get rid of stuff, I’ve accumulated a treasured set of clients-turned-friends.

This friend-gathering feature of my work is important to me. I’m not good at compartmentalizing myself into professional Kyle and personal Kyle. I love talking about what really matters in life as we purge decades of old paperwork or label bins for the storage closet. I love getting close with my clients. There, I said it.

So when it came time to decide if I’d be harming my business by launching this blog, I realized that, really, there’s nothing to lose. If current or prospective clients are repelled, then we probably didn’t, or wouldn’t have, hit it off anyway, and those might have been some tedious, humorless hours cleaning out their garage. I love that the more transparent I get in the world, the more I draw to me people of resonating wavelength. For me, that translates into meeting others who happen to be fighting the good fight for personal growth, without taking themselves too seriously. Laughing in Traffic is a virtual sieve, catching those people I’m meant to have enriching experiences with, while less compatible connections pass through the fine-mesh holes. An efficient win-win.

Yesterday I received a gift that put to rest any residual fear about whether Laughing in Traffic will shrivel my business. It was an email from a shorter-term client who I don’t know as well as some of my longer-term ones. In part, her email read: “Your bravery in sending the blog to your professional contacts is astounding, because otherwise I wouldn't have had it (the blog), and I'd just think you were awesome, stylish Kyle with a perfect life and I'd be that much farther away from realizing that I can be totally real with myself and others too.” A treasure of a note.

Of course there are plenty of professional environments where you might be ostracized for being vulnerable and transparent. After all, we live in America, where productivity, perfection and invincibility are the supreme predators of the cultural value chain. Still, I think we underestimate how relieved and inspired others are when someone steps forward to reveal actual self instead of android worker self. We’ve been so conditioned to equate imperfection with rejection that we sell each other short. I’m learning that people can hang with a whole lot more than you think they can. It only takes one person to release the perfection pressure valve for the rest of the group. Then everyone can breathe deeper and easier, creating space for honesty and creativity. And I’m no social scientist, but that’s got to be good for productivity.


(That photo is for you KJ!)

5 comments:

  1. you are an amazing example of authenticity in life and have created the possibility to inspire that in others - bravo!
    Ellen

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  2. Kyle- your words continue to astound me. I can relate to worrying about exposing too much. Yesterday I had an interview that was going well until he asked me to explain a long period of time that I was not employed. I wasn't prepared to answer in a way that was both truthful but also protecting myself. It was just after my brother died. But I didn't tell him that. I sort of stumbled and knew inside that this would cost me. The interview ended OK but I may get rejected. Its OK though. It may just not be the right fit!

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  3. thank you so much ellen and sheila. sheila, thanks for sharing that story. i agree that if you're not offered the job, there's something better waiting for you. keep me posted...

    love,
    kyle

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  4. Personally I'd much prefer to work with someone I can relate to on as many levels as possible. I think you are so right and it's a refreshing revelation.
    Dig it.

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  5. I'm so happy to be a client-turned-friend! I've been off the blog for a while just because I don't know how to set it up to "ding" me when there's a new post. If things don't pop up to me, I get forgetful...
    Anyway, I love this post. I love that you are so committed to being real and authentic in the world. I'm a clear beneficiary of that:) !!!
    Also, love love loved your post about the P.O.
    I once sat down at a wedding table of 12 people that I didn't know and took a deep breath...in an instant I realized that I was expecting myself to make everyone have a good time! Like it was somehow *my* responsibility. Seconds later I caught myself, took another (more relaxing) deep breath, and told myself I was no more responsible for these people than they were for me. Ahhhh, I relaxed and had fun. It was a seminal moment in life for me.
    Anyway, Kyle, much love, thanks for writing, and thanks for being you!
    xoxo EMG from Eastie:)

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